SAN DIEGO -- Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the rest of the "Sesame Street" gang will be putting down new roots in Southern California in 2021: SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. plans to turn its Aquatica water slide venue in Chula Vista into a new Sesame Place theme park.
Orlando, Fla.-based SeaWorld and Sesame Workshop, the educational nonprofit behind the Sesame Street children's television show and brand, announced Monday that the location near San Diego has been chosen for the first Sesame Place on the West Coast.
The "Sesame Street"-themed park will feature tame roller coasters, carousels and other family-friendly rides; the street made famous on TV; a parade; live shows; and character interactions, among other things, said Marilyn Hannes, park president of SeaWorld San Diego.
Slated for 17 acres, Sesame Place will incorporate many of the existing water attractions into the new park, particularly those that are appropriate for younger children.
The rebranding "is a significant investment for the company," Hannes said. "This is the first new Sesame Place park in 40 years.
The original Sesame Place is in Langhorne, Penn. Operated by SeaWorld, it opened in 1980 and offers rides, shows and water attractions based on popular "Sesame Street" characters.
SeaWorld Entertainment, which operates nearly a dozen SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks nationwide, has a long-running licensing agreement with Sesame Workshop. As part of that deal, it committed to open a second Sesame Place theme park somewhere in the United States by 2021, according to filings with federal securities regulators.
"Sesame Street" "is such great intellectual property, what has taken them so long?" said Dennis Speigel, president of Ohio-based International Theme Park Services. "They've had many years to capitalize on that, and now they are."
SeaWorld Entertainment has been pivoting away from animal shows at its parks nationwide. There was a drop in attendance after the release of the 2013 anti-captivity documentary "Blackfish," which was critical of SeaWorld's treatment of killer whales.
SeaWorld has focused mostly on adding thrill rides such as roller coasters in hopes of mounting a comeback.